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Reflection on the Report of the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues to Vietnam

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Since 1998, the Vietnamese government had closed its door to allow Human Rights Experts visiting its country because the Vietnamese government scared the experts find out the truth about its hidden oppression policies toward the Indigenous Peoples. The Vietnamese government always denies the existence of the Indigenous Peoples in Vietnam and calls them as Minority. During the Universal Periodic Review in 2009, Vietnam was requested to allow the UN Human Rights experts to visit its country. To save face and polish its regime, Vietnam promised to allow two UN independent experts to Visit Vietnam in 2010.

The Vietnamese government allowed the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay McDougall, to visit Vietnam from July 5 -15, 2010 and the UN Independent Expert on human rights and extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda, from August 23 – 31, 2010.

An official report of Ms. McDougall’s trip to Vietnam was published on January 21, 2011 and can be found on UN website at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/16session/A-HRC-16-4....

Vietnam is ruled by one party, a Vietnamese Communist Party. Vietnam always “confirms” to the world that Vietnam always respects Human Rights, but Vietnam never forgets to mention that its country has its own law to define what rights its citizen should have. When the people bravely stand up to demand for Human Rights, the Vietnamese government doesn’t hesitate to send them to have a long “vacation” in the prison. Thus, it is very surprised for a communist country like Vietnam to allow the UN Independent experts to visit Vietnam.

According to the report, we now can understand why the Vietnamese government allows the UN Independent experts to visit Vietnam because they monitored every move of the expert. “However, during her visit, she was largely confined to meetings arranged by the Government, encountering obstacles that limited opportunities for unaccompanied meetings outside of the presence of Government officials. She therefore does not believe that she had full, free and unfettered access to all parties whom she wished to consult. This impeded her ability to obtain perspectives other than those in consonance with official Government positions”

Vietnam has 54 ethnic minorities, but Vietnam doesn’t have any laws to enforce of the anti-discrimination toward the Indigenous/minorities. Even the article 5 of the Vietnam constitution “forbids all acts of ethnic discrimination”, but in the reality, when the indigenous/minority peoples were killed by the Vietnamese people, the Vietnamese government took no action to find justice for them. In September 2010, a Khmer-Krom youth, Mr. Chau Net was beheaded by the Vietnamese mob, the Vietnamese polices did not even investigate or allowed his parents to file compliant to seek justice for him.

The Vietnamese created the “Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs”. This is a puppet committee that the Vietnamese government uses as a tool to oppress the minority instead of helping them. Vietnam also allows the “Khmer-Krom leaders” who were elected by the Vietnamese government to be members of this committee. These Khmer-Krom are asked to use whatever way to oppress their own people when the Khmer-Krom activists stand up for their rights to demand for freedom of religion or demand to return the confiscated farmland. When Ms. McDougall was visiting Kampuchea-Krom in Preah Trapeang (Tra Vinh) province, the Vietnamese government sent those puppet Khmer-Krom leaders to meet her “The Khmer leaders with whom the Government arranged for the expert to meet expressed their satisfaction with religious freedoms and Government actions.”

As an expert, Ms. McDougall does not fell into the Vietnamese government’s trap easily. She knew that if the Khmer-Krom has religious freedoms, then why the Vietnamese government does not allow the Khmer-Krom to have their own independent Theravada Buddhist organization. If the Khmer-Krom people have religious freedom, then why did the Vietnamese government imprison the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks who stood up to demand for their religious freedom in 2007?

Even the Vietnamese government tried to cover up its oppression regarding to the freedom of learning Khmer language in public school, rights to publish documents in Khmer, and rights to access to public information in Khmer in the Media (Radio, Newspaper, Television, Internet), no one will believe it. Vietnam even controls Internet, how could Vietnam allow Khmer-Krom to freely access information in their language? The newspaper, radio, television, and websites that the Vietnamese government allows Khmer-Krom to listen/watch/access are controlled by the Vietnamese government. The Media that is broadcasted in Khmer is used as propaganda to brainwash and threaten the Khmer-Krom. Recently, the Vietnamese government even forbids Khmer-Krom to watch television broadcasted from Cambodia via Satellite.

Vietnam always sings the same song regarding to “Viet Nam is a poor country, a victim of devastating wars and subject to natural disasters.” The Vietnam War already ended 35 years ago and Vietnam now has millions of dollars to buy warship, missiles, and even has millions of dollar invested in Cambodia and Laos. But when it comes to the humanity aids to help the Indigenous/Minority Peoples, Vietnam always begs to the developed countries that it is a poor country that just got out of the war. Every year, Vietnam even made at least 7 billions of dollars from extracting the crude oil on the Khmer-Krom’s sea near O-Kap (Vung Tau) province. When the Vietnamese government built couple houses for Khmer-Krom and gave some money for the poor Khmer-Krom to save from the starvation, the Vietnamese government announced to the world that it has a special program, known as programme 135, to help the minority, especially Khmer-Krom.

Even Ms. McDougall’s report does not detail the real situation of the minority in Vietnam because it was a short trip and especially under heavy monitoring by the agents of the Vietnamese government, but Ms. McDougall provides a comprehensive report to enlighten the world about "untold stories" of the Indigenous/Minority peoples in Vietnam.